Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Rock & Roll Circus, Or, The Last Assembly

(Are you guys getting these musical references as titles? Let me know if you like it.)
In gathering as many conceivable sources as possible for my big-ass project on The Kinks, I've also had to turn on a mental filter of "is this a reliable source or total bullshit?" Unfortunately, because it contains some basic statistical info I'm hard-pressed to find elsewhere, I'm having to use The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock & Roll to determine the highest chart positions of the band's albums. I groan every time I see the pictures of them in their chapter with the wrong dates listed in the captions, never mind that the discussion of the group is little more than historical beyond the cookie cutter commentary on Ray's ambiguous lyrics in their 1970 hit single "Lola."
Speaking of which, I have chosen to write first about The Kinks' 1970 album, the equally memorable but hard to memorize Lola Versus Powerman & The Moneygoround, Part One. A long-standing joke in the community of critics and reviewers is "where's Part Two?" Only recently - as in, last night - did I discover just what became of its projected sequel. Apparently Ray wanted a double album, but Pye Records balked at the idea, instead asking him to split it up into two different records. Thanks to their failure to promote the band, however, the label found The Kinks not renewing their contract, instead signing on to RCA Records.
Getting started on something like this is just the toughest, especially since I know the finished product will be chapter nine (each chapter discusses an album and its surrounding singles), thus adding some contextual references to previous and future works. (Example: in 1973, the band would release Preservation Act One, following it up months later with the 2-LP mammoth Act Two; I have no doubt Ray was thinking of the half-finished Lola album when he made this decision.) Also, gather resources is proving to be a bitch. Rolling Stone's website has old reviews of their records from back in the day, starting with 1967's Something Else By The Kinks, right on up to the 1990's. Unfortunately, missing - seemingly overlooked - are Lola and BOTH Preservation albums. So in other words, three of my favorites.
In those cases, I'm turning to the paragraph-long blurbs by one Robert Christgau, the self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics." He quickly lambastes all three, giving them a B-, C+, and B-, respectively...though his rhetoric suggests they are earning D's or F's. Needless to say, I disagree, I find all three of this albums to be sublime, but then again - let's face it, people - I've got a bit of a bias toward Ray Davies. His brother Dave, too, while we're on the subject.
My hope is to have my first draft ready by Monday for Andy to proofread. He understands since so much of it is subjective (it's safe to say most albums will be praised to the point of hyperbole, save for a select few, which I'm NOT looking forward to doing; the steaming piles of mediocrity I should probably do next if not soon...doing those last would be a bitch) he can't necessarily add or subtract, but he'll be a BIG help in terms of musicological stuff. Tonight, I'll read what Tom Kitts has to say on the subject in his FANTASTIC book, Ray Davies: Not Like Everybody Else. I strongly recommend it to even the casual Kinks fan. We have some disagreements on interpretation of select pieces, but on the whole it is a great historical document. As an added bonus, Kitts is an English professor at St. John's, which makes for an infinitely more substantial read than the average rock critic, barring David Fricke and Greil Marcus.
Anyway, it's worth noting the album is of great significance to me on a personal level: it is the album I learned to play drums to, and as a result if anyone ever blows Mick Avory off as a bush league drummer, I'm quick to say, "Um, no, have you heard a little tune called 'Rats'?"

(By request of M@, I'm going to start including this kind of thing, since I have a tendency to forget my readers don't have my freakish obsession with The Kinks or Beefheart or Zappa or even The Beatles. Except Shelley, but she's still learning.)
So yeah. I rest my case on that one. He's phenomenal, and has this balance between Keith Moon's madcap drumming and the steady pocket-style beat of Ringo Starr. To do that, and this is just my own term, is what I call "playing with finesse."
That said, Nick's graduation was just fine. There's something oddly enjoyable about graduation day, the town seems to center around it (and why not?), and each year since 2002 it has always been a gorgeous summer day. My favorite part, though, is the This Is Your Life aspect, where figures from your past and present congratulate you and hobnob with one another. The end result is an odd sight where your aunt is talking to someone you acted with in a play, and a high school teacher is conversing with a family friend from a neighboring state. At the risk of being too sentimental, it's something I can only define as magical.
I got to see and converse with a TON of people, some I hadn't seen or at least spoken at length with in some time:
+ M@ (best cameo ever, by the way...you made that shitty-ass commencement ceremony worth attending.)
+ Aunt Nancy & Uncle Dudley (not that I don't see them regularly, I just enjoy their company.)
+ Gramma & Papa
+ Nick's 5th grade teacher Mr. Prince and his wife
+ no less than six or seven families from my parents' church
+ Eric & Maddie (stupid damn gas prices keeps us just out of practical reach from one another, and I certainly wish it wasn't that way.)
+ Joshua & Jordan (it was really, REALLY weird to see them and say, "I haven't seen you..." thinking in my head "your mother's funeral," and tactfully saying "over a year." I did furtively ask if things were okay. I can't imagine losing my mom while in 7th grade. I've needed her a lot more than I will EVER fully admit to in public in the years since that time in my life.)
+ People from the community theater
+ Nick's future roommate, who seems like a cool guy
+ Nick's girlfriend Holly, who we all FINALLY got to see in person. She is very sweet and friendly, and quite frankly a keeper for him. Time will tell.
+ Mom's old boss, Tony. More on him in a second.

For reasons not fully explained to me, during communion (why is it every time I'm attending church it HAS to be communion?) Mom was reading from Psalms a poem of lamentation. With tears in her eyes, she told me she'd felt like the world had let her down the previous week. That particular Psalm ended with something to the effect of "the righteous will soon come to my side and protect me." I quipped, "That makes sense! I'm here, and I'm one righteous dude!" She felt better after that, laughing and actually writing down what I said in the margin of her Bible. I won't deny our family to some extent has "roles." And I gladly accept cheering her up in a way no one else can. If I had come home for that reason alone, then the trip was worth it.
Tony...holy shit. I can't go into details without it sounding like esoteric psychobabble, so forgive me for presenting to you the Reader's Digest version. Somehow, and this was just the five of us, Eric and Nick's girlfriends, and Tony, but the topic shifted to theories of perception of the universe and of reality. Also, the notion of prescience in dreams. I was completely and utterly FLOORED to hear what he was saying, because these are concepts and notions I have had but never verbalized all my life! Example being that we both see faces, locations, and places in time in our dreams YEARS before we experience them. For both of us on separate occasions, it has kept us from getting lost, been of some emotional significance, or in a case or two saved our lives - literally.
I'll impart to you what I said to my mom in an email last night about the very subject: "It's great having people in my life (ie, you, Dad, Eric, Nick, Shelley, Graham) who 'get' me, but to meet someone else that people have to 'get,' it's a comforting thing. To know I'm not some freak, but that I have peers on the same cosmic plane as me."
Before I left, Mom said to me, "You know how you guys were talking about destiny, and that everything in life occurs for a reason. It's become so clear to me why Tony came into my life when he did in 1999. It was right on the brink of you becoming a rebellious teenager, but more importantly, becoming YOU. I had to meet him first so I could be ready for you."
My response? "This has been such a huge revelation to me. You've always said he and I are alike, but I'd always thought it was just because we were both smart and REALLY absent-minded. To know we think with the same logic and thought processes, this has been the biggest revelation in my life since I discovered Ray Davies' songwriting or Frank Zappa's music - and that was a Hell of a long time ago."
I also shared a nice moment with Nick, telling him I thought Holly was perfect for him, and to hang on to her...or at least someone JUST like her, there is no way of knowing how the next four years of college will go for them between distance and the hordes of new faces they will encounter. Still, I wish for them the best. For whatever reason, I was compelled to give him a bit of advice that is a combination of something Tony gave to me back in 2002 peppered with something I acquired since then. I told him the best thing he could ever do, in school, work, or life in general is to know when to "play the game" (Tony's bit) and when to stand up for yourself. So you have a dick for a teacher...okay, fine. Do the work and get the Hell out. But suppose you have a dick for a teacher who is unfairly giving you a bad grade and/or is refusing to alter it. That's when you grow a pair and say, "Really? Maybe we should talk to the department head about this..."
Due to the sensitivity of the situation, I refuse to go into specifics, but I'm finding myself KNOWING I need to take a stand and quite frankly be aggressive. It's nothing more than both summoning up the courage to do it, and waiting for the right time. I know, it sounds cryptic as Hell, but M@ knows what I'm talking about, so does Shelley. (And Eric and Maddie, who I may have said before, but apparently they suffer through my paragraphs of endless pablum, they just don't leave comments in the event this ever gets rediscovered by a parental unit.) Anyway, long story short: you'll read about it when it happens. Anything else and it's a dead giveaway.

On that note, I bid you adieu, and this time I PROMISE I will be back in the next couple days with updates on life, and more importantly some analysis on The Kinks.



m@ said...

I wish I could name the friends I have who have said, "I wish I could get into your head for just a couple hours. Then maybe I'd 'get' you." And isn't it cool to find comparative souls? Revel in your oddity.

As for The Kinks. Ok, so I really enjoy their stuff, and I thank you for adding the "The Kinks for Idiots" insert. Hand to heaven, it will make reading your entries SO much more informative for me.

Finally, yes. Do it.

Shelley said...

I agree with matt, even though you have talked to me about the music you write about, I have a really bad memory and the clips help.

I told you graduation wouldnt be all that bad.

I know you have courage, you just have to use it. But remember that you'll always have people there to support you (by the way, I'm one of those people).